Item number: T-3733
Size: H 77.4" x L 25.6" (196.5 x 65 cm)
Meiji era (1868 –1912), 1901
Hanging scroll; ink on silk.
Signature: Seiho sha 栖鳳寫 (drawn by Seiho)
Seals: Seiho 栖鳳 and Kōkan Sei in 高幹栖印
(Kōkan Sei seal)
Fitted wooden double tomobako box. Inner box signed outside: Seiho 栖鳳; seal: Seihō 栖鳳; signed and inscribed inside: Kanoto-ushi shimo- tsuki Kōgyoshō ni oite dai Seiho 辛丑霜月題于耕漁 荘栖鳳 (Inscribed in November of the kanoto-ushi year  at Kōgyoshō, Seiho), with seal Seiho 栖鳳; outer box inscribed outside: Bakufu no zu tatehaba 瀑布圖竪幅 (Vertical scroll of a waterfall)
This masterful depiction of a waterfall dates from an important moment in the career of Takeuchi Seihō, a protean artist who would go on to dominate the world of Nihonga in Kyoto during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Executed in ink tones on silk, the painting of the falling water reflects the atmospheric use of layered washes typical of the Kyoto Shijō school, but passages of light, finely articulated, drier brushwork, as in the depiction of the rocks and plants at right, mark a new departure in Seihō’s work. In 1900 he undertook a European trip, beginning with a visit to the Paris Exposition Universelle and going on to tour France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Following his return to Kyoto in February 1901, Seihō wrote, “I realized that, thanks to my acquaintance with Western art, I had perhaps gained a better understanding of the spirit of Asian art and its distinctive techniques and colors.” His exposure to European masters, such as Turner and Corot, even inspired him to alter the first character 棲 of his art name to the form 栖 seen on the present work, which includes the element 西, meaning “West.”
Most works from Seihō’s immediate post-Europe period are ambitious exercises in closely observed naturalism, including an imposing pair of gold screens, also dating from 1901, that depict a meticulously brushed tiger and lion. Those screens bear a signature that includes Kōgyoshō ni oite (at Kōgyoshō), the same words that appear in part of Seihō’s inscription on the present scroll’s storage box. The name Kōgyoshō, the meaning of the characters implying that “you should only eat what you have farmed and fished yourself,” was chosen by Seihō for his combined studio and residence. He moved into this abode, located across the street from the Takeuchi family home, in the summer of 1887 following his marriage to Takayama Nami, the daughter of a Nishijin textile merchant.
The waterfall paintings reproduced in Harada Heisaku’s catalogue of Seihō’s work, published in 1981, give a sense of the artist’s developing treatment of this classic subject. An early example dating from 1893 uses crisp, almost hard brushstrokes for the foreground plants and rocks, contrasted with a mostly unpainted waterfall, to give a sense of pictorial depth, a technique also seen in the work of Westernizing artists such as Kano Hōgai. A waterfall painting dating from 1900 displays a more atmospheric approach that is closer to the present scroll; others painted in 1905 and 1910 are minimalist to the point of abstraction. Seihō was a master technician who worked in many different modes, but as seen here, he was perhaps most at home when experimenting with the expressive potential of ink and brush alone.